EU to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports including boats

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A Sea Ray exhibit at the Düsseldorf Boat Show this year: Photo: Messe Düsseldorf, Constanze Tillmann

A Sea Ray exhibit at the Düsseldorf Boat Show this year: Photo: Messe Düsseldorf, Constanze Tillmann

The European Union announced Tuesday its plans to impose retaliatory tariffs on many popular U.S. imports, including recreational boats.

Should the EU go forward with a tariff on recreational vessels, the impact on the marine industry will be felt by aluminum and fiberglass boat imports alike, as well as engine, accessory and component manufacturers, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The EU plans to apply a 25 percent tit-for-tat levy on a range of consumer, agricultural and steel products imported from the U.S. if President Trump follows through on his steel tariff threat, according to a list drawn up by the European Commission and obtained by Bloomberg News.

Trump has said he will seek to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports, a move that’s been applauded by the U.S. steel and aluminum industries, but sharply criticized by many U.S. manufacturers.

Other countries are publicly contemplating similar action, which could send the United States into a trade war with key allies, the NMMA said.

Brunswick Corp., one of the world’s largest boatbuilders with 12 brands (not including Sea Ray and Meridian, which are up for sale), saw 9 percent of its boat revenue come from sales to Europe.

About 12 percent of its engine revenue in fiscal year 2017 was from European sales — a significant number considering the company’s engine segment accounts for nearly half of Brunswick’s overall revenue and nearly 80 percent of its marine revenue.

Targeting $3.5 billion of American goods, the European retaliatory list targets shirts, jeans, cosmetics, other consumer goods, motorbikes and recreational boats, worth about $1.24 billion dollars; orange juice, bourbon, corn and other agricultural products totaling nearly $1.2 billion; and steel and other industrial products valued at nearly $1.06 billion.

The EU’s list is solely in response to the steel levy proposed — economists believe an aluminum tariff would spark an additional round of tariffs on U.S. exports to Europe.

Trump’s proposed tariffs have been met with “significant opposition from domestic manufacturing industries and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill,” the NMMA said.

The decision “severely harms” the recreational boating industry, NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a statement released after Trump’s announcement.

Harley Davidson, which sees about 16 percent of its sales to Europe, said in a statement that the levy could have a significant impact on sales and customers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The 10 percent tariff on aluminum is separate from the Department of Commerce anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigation on common alloy aluminum sheet from China, which could result in an additional 56 percent anti-dumping and 40 percent countervailing duty.

In the coming days, NMMA will be reaching out to members to ensure marine manufacturers’ positions are represented and heard by members of Congress.

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